Dr. Daniel K. Robinson explains why ‘growing up’ and ‘getting real’ actually mean that we must sing.
I’m often asked, “When did you start singing?” Truthfully, I can’t remember. My parents tell me that I had a melody on my lips before I could even talk. Funnily enough that same melody was the one that earned me many detentions in school. It wasn’t a rude song and I wasn’t a bad kid… I just didn’t stop singing… even in class.
This is not unusual, especially for those of you reading this article. Many singers tell of the feeling of freedom and sheer abandonment when they opened their mouths to allow the expression of their souls to emanate from deep within.
Why is it then that these feelings of sovereign liberty can be lost as we ‘grow up and get real jobs’? Those of us who are fortunate enough to earn an income from singing can even have that original joy buried even deeper, submerged under the pressures of performance or the mundane nature of the gig.
It’s for these reasons, and others besides, that occasionally I ask my singing students to remember why we sing:
1. Your Anatomy Is Wired To Sing
Each of us has been born with the anatomy to sing. At first glance this fact may seem rather obvious. But in the current age of western society, driven by the cult of celebrity, the population seems to divide itself into those few people who can sing and those who cannot. I counter this modern notion with the undeniable biological fact: “It is the birthright of every human being to sing”.
As we age and become more self-aware, the pressure to ‘fit in’ increases and, in turn, we find ourselves drawn into the ‘no-one-wins’ game of comparisons: “who has the better voice?”
Do you and your voice a favour: return to the innocence of your childhood. Give flight to your voice, regardless of perceived quality, because you were born to sing.
2. You Love To Sing!
I don’t dance. And despite having no desire to learn, I envy those who can. To be truthful I simply have no desire to express myself through movement at all! But given the opportunity to sing… try and keep me off that stage (or out of that shower!).
There’s just something about the sensations I experience when I sing: emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’m guessing you’re the same. Like me, you love to sing. Don’t ever forget that. Yes, sometimes we love it more than others; but for the most part singing is an extremely pleasurable thing to do.
An old adage comes to mind: ‘Stop to Smell the Roses!’ Reworked for our purposes the same wisdom might read, ‘Stop to Sing the Song!’
3. Others Love To Hear You Sing
When I first sit with a new student to discuss their vocal health and performance history, I also ask them what they think other people’s perception is of their voice. Apart from the odd case, the overwhelming response to my inquiry is that friends and family are, for the most part, encouraging.
Human beings need to feel wanted and appreciated. For many singers, the appreciation we draw from others when we sing is powerful; and when it’s absorbed and assimilated into an individual’s psyche via a supportive and honest environment it can be extremely healthy for the singer’s ego.
I never shy away from receiving appropriate praise and thanks for my singing; it does me good to know that I have given the gift of my voice to others. Again, I know I’m not alone here. Embrace the encouragement you receive from your supporters and allow it to propel you and your voice forward.
4. Singing Improves Your Living
Most people leave my studio with a smile on their face. Granted, I’m a nice guy who does his best to encourage his students… but most of the credit actually goes to the singing.
The activity of singing releases endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins work to reduce stress by triggering positive feelings in the body, while oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’) induces relaxation, trust and psychological stability.
If you want to be happier and live a calmer life, then singing is the key; it literally improves your living.
5. Amateur Or Professional – The Song Doesn’t Care!
Many of us spent our adolescent years dreaming about touring the world just like our music idols. For most of us, that dream never eventuated into reality. Sadly, this is the very reason why some people stop singing. Why open your mouth if it’s not going reap a monetary reward?
Even as I’m typing this I can hear the shallow folly of this kind of thinking… and I think you can too.
A song doesn’t care if you’re amateur or professional. A song just needs a voice to give it wings so that it can go out and be all that it was written to be. You have a voice… now go and find a song.
I’m a big believer in taking inspiration and injecting it into something practical. So here’s what I want you to do this week. Think back to the early years of your singing. These may be your teenage years or even earlier. Identify two or three songs that you remember singing back then, and… wait for it… SING THEM. Don’t sing them with any agenda other than to enjoy them and once again abandon yourself to the sheer delight of your own voice. You might be surprised… you might just remember the reasons you must sing.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Larry Hoy - Holding On
Hey Larry…awesome tune mate! Your sound reminded me of a famous 80s Australian song, “I Was Only Nineteen” by Redgum (http://bit.ly/1Nygjuy). I love that story telling quality in a voice. Thank you. A thought if I might…be careful of the alignment of your neck when your self-accompanying on the guitar. The guitar strap can cause the neck to push forward placing stress and strain on the voice (and in turn the sound).
Dr Dan is a freelance artist and educator. He is the principal Singing Voice Specialist for Djarts and presents workshops to singers across Australia and abroad. He has served as National Vice President (2009–11) and National Secretary for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (2006–11). Over the past two decades, while maintaining his own performance career, Daniel has instructed thousands of voices. This vast experience enables Daniel to effortlessly work with voices of all skill levels: beginners to professionals. You can join Dr Dan every Tuesday & Thursday on his YouTube channel: Dr Dan’s Voice Essentials. Dr Dan is also the creator of 7 Days to a Better Voice: a FREE one-week technical detox for your voice.